Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Rajo Pind: jailhouse or caravanserai?

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Sher Shah Suri’s famous Rohtas Fort sits on one side of the Kahan River. Across the muddy waters of the stream lies the village of Rajo Pind. Otherwise unremarkable, the village proper can be entered by a lofty but ruinous gateway that was once part of a high wall enclosing a large compound. Inside the compound, among the modern houses, there are three buildings dating back to the Mughal era. The locals believe these were part of a jailhouse where the Suri king interred his political foes.

The ruins comprise of a row of simple rooms arranged on either side of a smaller gateway along the north side of the village. These rooms wrap around to the west side and run into a modern residence. These rooms are said to be part of the old jailhouse. These are, in fact, residential rooms of an old caravanserai. Those that are still serviceable serve as store-rooms for local residents. Others are gradually being dismantled and replaced with modern construction.

Further down the west wall, another building with a simple arched façade and three squat domes is used as a byre for buffaloes. Inside there are no decorations, but a clear mehrab facing west explicitly designates the structure as a mosque, yet the buffalo-keeper does not know that his barn once echoed with sounds of worship. Locals proudly point to their new-fangled mosque nearby which they say was built after pulling down another that was from the Mughal period.

The small tile that makes these buildings, the arches, the domes of the mosque and other architectural features all point to a date of construction in the early Jehangir period, more than half a century after Sher Shah Suri. That is, these ruins are now about four hundred years old.

Now, after Sher Shah Suri died and his kingdom passed back into Mughal hands, Rohtas no longer served its original purpose to guard against the incursions of the doughty Gakkhars of the Potohar uplands. Rohtas now housed a small garrison and served as a staging post for royal armies passing through the region. The security provided by it encouraged the building of the caravanserai of Rajo Pind: here right under shadow of the might Rohtas, merchant caravans and ordinary travellers could tarry without fear of being looted.

Elders recall a number of other Mughal buildings that were gradually pulled down in the past fifty years and replaced by new structures. As the population of Rajo Pind grows and more and more housing is needed, the last remaining portion of the caravanserai will also bite the dust. One day even the mosque-turned-byre will be replaced by a new house. Then the caravanserai of Rajo Pind will be forever lost.

How To Get There: From Dina (16 km north of Jhelum on the Grand Trunk Road) take the old road to Rohtas. The blacktop road leads straight to Rajo Pind 5 km distant.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 09:00,


At 3 April 2013 at 11:44, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

What a lovely post and the picture is really great. Walls erected on the memories of past....... Great to see it.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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